Ships dealing with the aftermath of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill are fleeing the accident site today in the face of a ferocious storm.
Although BP is currently still monitoring the capped site of the MC252 well, efforts to drill relief wells that will finally shut it down have been suspended after forecasters predicted that Tropical Storm Bonnie would track into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm already has sustained winds of 65 km per hour and can be expected to worsen.
“Due to the risk that Tropical Storm Bonnie poses to the safety of the nearly 2,000 people responding to the BP oil spill at the well site, many of the vessels and rigs will be preparing to move out of harm’s way beginning tonight,” said Admiral Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander, yesterday.
“Some of the vessels may be able to remain on site, but we will err on the side of safety. While these actions may delay the effort to kill the well for several days, the safety of the individuals at the well site is our highest concern.”
Aside from the suspension of response work, a storm in the Gulf could have a number of potential impacts on the oil that has already leaked from the seabed. The storm could increase the mixing of oil and water, which would encourage the breakdown of the oil by natural processes.
In addition, a storm could either drive oil towards the shore or away from the shore, depending on which side of the slick it passed. For example, if a storm passed to the east, the wind – which blows counter-clockwise – would push oil out to sea.
At the moment the predictions for Bonnie have it heading more or less directly towards the leak site.
Image: National Hurricane Centre